Iraq: Retreat from Baghdad

Guardian

Anyone who wants to know what a US withdrawal from Afghanistan looks like would do well to study the carefully choreographed events earlier in the week in Washington and in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, yesterday. The war was over, Barack Obama repeatedly declared. The last Americans troops would leave behind “a solid, stable, representative” Iraq. The greatest fighting force in the world was leaving Iraq with its head held high. And this from the man who once declared the war dumb. A nine-year war that sits comfortably alongside the greatest military blunders in history – the charge of the Light Brigade, the Dieppe Raid, Pearl Harbour, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Vietnam – was in this president’s view being brought to a successful, honourable conclusion.

Even with an election campaign in full flow, the chasm that opened up between words in Fort Bragg and one day in the life of Iraq was unbridgeable. Wednesday December 14 was relatively quiet: two car bombs in Tal Afar, killing three and wounding 35; bombings and shootings in Kirkuk, Mosul, Baghdad. A war that is over? Or take the decision on Monday of Diyala provincial council to declare itself independent from central government. Or take the answer that the prime minister Nouri al-Maliki gave last week when asked to describe who he thought he was – first a Shia, second an Iraqi, third an arab, and fourth a member of the Dawa party. What chance for a nation state, if its prime minister places his confessional identity above his national one? Can any of the above be deemed solid, stable or representative?

That Mr Obama stole Republican clothes in his address to paratroopers in Fort Bragg, there can be little doubt. National security, with its muscular approach to foreign policy, is their bag. But it has been whisked away from them by the Democratic president who ordered the surge in Afghanistan, who sent the Seals team in to kill Osama bin Laden, who failed to close Guantanamo, who now fulfills a campaign pledge to bring all the troops home from Iraq. The commander in chief of the most powerful army in the world is also a world leader, and it is to the Middle East that a US leader also has to speak. To this audience, and specifically US allies in the region, the day the last combat soldier crosses the desert at the end of the year will indeed be “an extraordinary milestone” but not the one a president facing reelection would be willing to recognise. That day will indeed look like the start of a long march home. The day when America stopped being a policy maker in the Middle East, but became instead a policy taker.

Is the Iraq Mr Obama leaves behind going to be a strategic ally of the US? Hardly. Not only does Iran have significant sway over the Shia political elite which holds the virtual monopoly of power in this country. But of all the rival power centres within Iran, it is the darkest of them that has the strongest stake in its neighbour. Members of Iraq’s cabinet have beaten a well worn path to the door of Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Quds force, the external operations wing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. The British embassy compounds in Tehran know him well. He ordered their sacking. The future partners of an independent Iraq are Iran and Turkey. The US comes a distant third.

Nor have the jihadi forums, which formed the centre of the insurgency, fallen silent. They are buzzing with calls to send fighters into Syria to help the Sunni Muslim uprising against the Shia overlord regime of Bashar al-Assad. The Salafists are up and running again. The Awakening or Sons of Iraq who played a seminal role in turning the tide against Al-Qaida are leaving Iraq, betrayed by a prime minister who has done his best to suppress them. The scars of this grand folly will be born by generations to come. The fight for the destiny of the land of the Arabs is being won, but not by America.

Who Stole Iraq’s Money?

From Reuters, there might be some food for thought here for the Libyan rebels

Iraq’s parliament is chasing about $17 billion of Iraqi oil money it says was stolen after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and has asked the United Nations for help to track it down.

The missing money was shipped to Iraq from the United States to help with reconstruction after the ouster of Saddam Hussein.

In a letter to the U.N. office in Baghdad last month, parliament’s Integrity Committee asked for help to find and recover the oil money taken from the Development Fund of Iraq (DFI) in 2004 and lost in the chaos that followed the invasion.

“All indications are that the institutions of the United States of America committed financial corruption by stealing the money of the Iraqi people, which was allocated to develop Iraq, (and) that it was about $17 billion,” said the letter sent to the U.N. with a 50-page report.

The committee called the disappearance of the money a “financial crime” but said U.N. Security Council resolutions prevent Iraq from making a claim against the United States.

“Our committee decided to send this issue to you … to look into it and restore the stolen money,” said the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.

U.N. officials were not immediately available for comment.

SALARIES, PENSIONS

The DFI was established in 2003 at the request of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the U.S. body headed by Paul Bremer that governed Iraq after the invasion. The fund was to be used to pay the salaries and pensions of Iraqi government workers and for reconstruction projects.

In 2004, the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush flew billions of dollars in cash into Iraq. The money came from the sale of Iraqi oil, surplus funds from the U.N. oil-for-food program and seized Iraqi assets.

Last July, an audit report from the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) said the U.S. Department of Defense was unable to account properly for $8.7 billion of Iraqi oil and gas money after the 2003 invasion.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Al Jazeera television on Sunday: “No one on the Iraqi side was controlling the work of Paul Bremer at that time. So I think the administration of the United States needs to give the answers for where and how this (money) was being used.

“We do understand that Iraqis are also engaged in such lack of transparency and corruption related to the Paul Bremer time in Iraq,” he added.

Osama al-Nujaifi, Iraq’s parliament speaker, said a committee was investigating what happened to some $20 billion of DFI money.

“Some of these funds were spent and are documented. But some do not have such documents,” he said. “We as a parliament are working together with the Iraqi Board of Supreme Audits and with coordination of SIGIR to know where this money ended up.”

The appeal to the United Nations could help Iraq recover its money by putting its case before the international community, said Bahaa al-Araji, the head of the Integrity Committee.

“We cannot sue the Americans. Laws do not allow us to do that. All we want is to get this issue to the U.N.,” Araji said. “If this works, it will open the way for Iraq to restore its stolen money.”

In 2003, the CPA issued an order granting immunity to U.S. personnel and institutions working in Iraq.

Support Iraqi Protests

NEWSLETTER OF THE BRUSSELLS TRIBUNALSPECIAL EDITION – February 20, 2011
Support Iraqi protests! UNDERSIGNED CALL UPON YOU TO SIGN THIS PETITION
While millions across the world watched live 18 days of dramatic revolution that ousted the US-allied torture-friendly regime of Hosni Mubarak, no one is offered live feed from Iraq of its people’s uprising against an enemy much worse.

And while President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton are being lauded for their supposed support for Egyptian democracy, no one is asking the key question Washington can’t answer: When will members of this US administration and the three previous face trial for crimes against humanity in Iraq?

Despite US hypocrisy, nothing will prevent the collapse of US geostrategic goals in the Arab region. It is not by direct confrontation that this is happening, nor by ideology. The interests of the people are opposed to the model of underdevelopment Washington and allies propose and police.

The year of revolutions
Across the Arab world, 2011 appears set to be remembered as the “year of revolutions”. In Iraq, ravaged by eight years of US occupation, plunder, destruction and death, protests have burst forth in Baghdad, Kut, Basra, Kirkuk, Ramadi, Sulaymaniyah and tens of other locations. As usual, the people face live fire.

We declare our solidarity with the people of Iraq in protest. We declare our solidarity with the martyrs of the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, and all martyrs of Arab uprisings. We put Washington on notice that it is your policies that are being defeated, and it is your alliances that are falling apart.

The region is witness to a rolling tide of Arab renaissance, led by the aspirations of the Arab youth. No injustice will be spared criticism. No lie will remain unexposed.

Support Iraqi protests!
Stand in support of the Iraqi people in their struggle against state terrorism and repression, generalised corruption, a falsified political process and its state apparatus, generalised lack and collapse of public services, poverty and unemployment, systematic abuse of human rights by the government and its militias, illegal contracts, treaties and a constitution imposed under occupation, and foreign plans to destroy Iraqi culture, economy and unity.

Stand in support of the Iraqi people’s struggle for freedom, democracy, dignity, unity and social justice.

Stand in support of the Iraqi people in their uprising, and in solidarity with all Arabs at this dawn of a new era!

The game is over! We demand that Maliki’s government leave without shedding the blood of innocent Iraqis on 25 February, Iraq’s “Day of Peaceful Anger”.

We demand that other states withdraw support from Maliki and not provide cover for a government bloodbath.

We are certain the people of Iraq will achieve victory, like their Tunisian and Egyptian brothers and sisters.


Dr Ian Douglas, member of the BRussells Tribunal Executive Committee and coordinator of the International Initiative to Prosecute US genocide in Iraq – UK/Egypt
Abdul Ilah Albayaty, political analyst and activist, member of the BRussells Tribunal Executive Committee and the International Initiative to Prosecute US genocide in Iraq – France/Iraq
Hana Al Bayaty, political analyst and activist, member of the BRussells Tribunal Executive Committee and the International Initiative to Prosecute US genocide in Iraq, – France/Iraq
Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, President Perdana Global Peace Foundation – Malaysia
Denis Halliday, former UN Assistant Secretary General & United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq 1997-98 – Ireland
Prof Dr Lieven De Cauter, philosopher, K.U. Leuven / Rits, initiator of the BRussells Tribunal – Belgium
Dr Curtis F J Doebbler, international human rights lawyer – USA/Palestine
Felicity Arbuthnot, journalist – UK 
Paola Manduca, professor of genetics DIBIO, University of Genoa – Italy
Lamis Andoni, journalist – Palestine
Serene Assir, writer/journalist – Lebanon/Spain
Dirk Adriaensens, member of the BRussells Tribunal Executive Committee, coordinator SOS Iraq – Belgium
Matthias Chang, law specialist, Perdana Global Peace Foundation and the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War – Malaysia
Cynthia McKinney, Green Party US Presidential Candidate – USA
Dr Zulaiha Ismail, Perdana Global Peace Foundation – Malaysia
Sigyn Meder, member of the Iraqi Solidarity Association in Stockholm – Sweden
Mike Powers, member of the Iraqi Solidarity Association in Stockholm – Sweden
Perdana Global Peace Foundation
Ad-Hoc Committee for Justice for Iraq
Take action!

1. Endorse this statement by writing here (hanaalbayaty@gmail.com).

2. There is a virtual blackout on the uprising in Iraq in the Western media. Take initiative and demand that news outlets put Iraq back on the agenda where you are.

3. For updated information on the uprising in Iraq follow here (Arabic) and here (English).

USGENOCIDE

PERDANA

THE BRUSSELLS TRIBUNAL

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John Wight on Blair’s Return to Chilcot

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The nation’s favourite warmonger Tony Blair returns to our screens this Friday in his second appearance in front of the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War.

It seems the establishment goons (sorry, Privy Counsellors) charged with asking questions about the decision to go to war and thereafter its prosecution and aftermath – questions it should be borne in mind which carry no legal weight – have identified ‘inconsistencies’ in Blair’s original testimony. 

More specifically the former prime minister’s original testimony was contradicted by that given by former attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, and former head of MI6, Sir John Scarlett, who was responsible for overseeing the compilation of the so-called and now infamous intelligence dossier that was a key component in making the case for war to Parliament.

Chilcot began in the summer of 2009 at the instigation of then Prime Minister Gordon Brown. It was only after a subsequent outcry in the media that Brown gave way and allowed proceedings to be carried out in public. Since then a veritable parade of witnesses have appeared, the vast majority assorted ex-government flunkies, civil servants and bureaucrats, along with the usual suspects whose names and reputations will forever be associated with Iraq. Indeed, how could it be otherwise given that it was one of the most egregious and overt imperialist military adventures ever undertaken by any western country, one that has impacted on society at home in the shape of increased racial, ethnic and religious tensions, attacks on civil liberties and an increasingly corrupt body politic?

But back to Blair and it’s interesting to chart his post-prime ministerial rise as a member of the world’s super-rich, long his favoured demographic, which has seen him command outrageous fees for public speaking engagements in front of various corporate audiences, presumably pontificating on subjects such as the virtues of humanitarian intervention, the role of faith in politics, peace in the 21st century, and the need to bomb the fuck out of Iran.

At the same time as his multiple bank accounts and offshore registered investments and business interests have exploded with lucre, the decay afflicting the man has been self evident in an increasingly withered and skeletol physical appearance. Rather than the respected and beloved Churchillian figure he aspired to be, standing up to tyranny and injustice in the name of freedom and democracy, Tony Blair will go to his grave knowing that outside of the ranks of his family, phalanx of bodyguards and corporate friends, he is universally reviled. Imperialist that he certainly was, Churchill still at least managed to get one ‘good war’ under his belt to salvage his legacy. Blair on the other hand has only a mountain of dead bodies and the subversion and violation of international law to define his.

Like any loyal and eager to please satrap, he hitched his government and the country to US geopolitical and strategic interests post 9/11, exploiting a parliament which outdid itself in pusillanimity in order to do so.

But it is not just Iraq that Tony Blair will be remembered for. He will also go down alongside Ramsay McDonald as the most right wing, anti trade union, anti working class leader in the history of the Labour Party. Indeed, the amputation of the Labour Party’s founding ethos was performed by Blair with the skill and precision of a surgeon. Where former Labour leader Neil ‘Lord’ Kinnock took tentative steps in a rightward direction, Blair sprinted headlong to jump on the bus marked Thatcherism when it came to his embrace of the free market and the City. Piecemeal reforms were parcelled out to the poor and low paid during the boom years – years in which the richest layer of society saw their wealth go up exponentially while wages for the majority went down in real terms, offset by the easy availability of personal credit.

Meritocracy replaced solidarity as the core value of Labour, along with the importation of that old American chestnut of social mobility to justify crippling inequality. Blair’s adherence to to that Clintonite rightward shift doctrine of social democracy otherwise known as triangulation, turned Britain into a free market paradise for billionaires, corporate executives and financial institutions. Blair’s particular genius was in the presentation, utilising his evident talents as a PR man to sell the process as progressive politics.

On his previous appearance in front of Chilcot just over a year ago, arriving and exiting by the back door as befits a man of the people, Blair exerted himself in his attempt to get the British public to finally understand the torment and moral turmoil he’s suffered repeatedly during a tortuous process of introspection and self reflection over his decision to go to war. However in the end, he averred, he would do it all over again and has no regrets. It’s lonely being me, he seemed to be saying last time, and, look, I did it all for you.

Though his later autobiography wasn’t titled Mein Kampf, it should have been judging by its contents. A cliché-ridden manifesto of disdain for the Labour Party, trade unions, collectivism and social and economic justice, wherein words such as enterprise, aspiration, security and dynamism dominate, this is what passed as the autobiography of a Labour prime minister. Inevitably it became a bestseller, though Blair himself was unable to sell personally it as the public opprobrium he was forced to endure at just two book signings forced him to retreat back into his bubble of self delusion.

Life for the former prime minister now appears to consist of flying across the world in a private jet to attend speaking engagements or to give international banks, financial institutions and oil companies the benefit of his advice, all for a hefty fee. He has also managed to accrue more than a few palatial residences since his time in office, and was even minded to accept the role or to be more accurate non-role of Middle East Peace Envoy; surely an abuse of Orwellian language if ever there was one.

So this Friday Tony Blair will be popping up again in central London to face more questions on Iraq. In time honoured fashion, Stop the War are planning a welcoming committee. The details can be found here.

Update: The scandal deepens. Gus O’Donnell, head of the civil service, has blocked a request by the Chilcot Inquiry for the release of private memos between Blair and the White House as part of their deliberations. It is thought that one of the memos in question contains a pledge from Tony Blair to George Bush back in 2002 that Britain would join any military action taken by the US against Iraq. Sir John Chilcot has come out publicly criticising the decision to block his request for the release of these memos and should be commended for doing so. Gus O’Donnell on the other hand has only succeeded in undermining his own position in vetoing the right of the public to know the truth about the lead up to the war. The families of the British troops who’ve been killed and maimed deserve better, as do the Iraqi people, whose suffering should take priority over British establishment sensitivities at making public the private correspondence between a British Prime Minister and US President.

Brussels Tribunal Statement on Iraq

 PARTITION BY CENSUS
We, the undersigned, defending the right of Iraq to independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, rejecting the attempts of Iraqi puppets promoted by the US occupation to trade the national rights of Iraqis and to institutionalise via census the criminal demographic engineering they have pursued by force, declare that:
From the first day of the US-UK occupation of Iraq, the occupation began to undertake a series of measures, directly or through its local allies, to destroy Iraq as a state and a nation and to partition it along ethnic and sectarian lines.

Today, the puppet government of the occupation and its Kurdish partners are trying to hold a population census in Kirkuk province whose aim is to give a permanent legal character to the criminal social engineering, ethnic cleansing and demographic changes that have been implemented under occupation.[1] This could unleash a full blown civil war across Iraq, and potentially lead to its partition and a consequent regional war.

In addition to the death of more than one million Iraqis, the ethnic cleansing and other means pursued by the United States, United Kingdom and their allies in order to implement the process of partitioning Iraq, in its cities and regions, have caused the forced migration of 2.5 million Iraqis out of Iraq and the forced displacement of 2.5 million others from their homes inside Iraq. Click to continue reading

Memories Revisited

AlKhari Main

paintings by Ahmad Alkarkhi
at the Jerusalem Fund Gallery, Washington DC

September 17-October 3, 2010

opening reception to meet the artist
Friday, September 17, 6:00—8:00 p.m.

Memories Revisited, Ahmad Alkarkhi’s new exhibition at the Jerusalem Fund Gallery, showcases his intensely worked abstract expressionist paintings. Hot colors, dense brushstrokes and a pentimento of architectural and calligraphic references reflect his vivid memories of the Iraq he was forced to flee. These new paintings invoke strong feelings of beauty and loss, while providing a passage to the new reality of his life as a painter in the United States.

Highly successful in his native Iraq, Alkarkhi and his family were forced to flee to Syria. His successful exhibitions at the Free Hand Gallery in Damascus sustained him until he was able to acquire refugee status in the U.S. in 2009.

2425 Virginia Ave. NW / Washington DC 20037 / 202-338-1958
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